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Foam Roller: Hamstrings - Learn how, but also when not to roll your hamstrings

It's natural for your hamstrings to feel a bit tight and stiff after training and using a foam roller or doing hamstring stretches can really help to ease the discomfort. But you need to be mindful of the fact that rolling or stretching them out may not be enough. If your hamstrings continue to feel tight, sore or uncomfortable during or after training, they may be telling you that they need a rest or that your lower back isn’t happy. If that’s the case, foam rolling your hamstrings won’t really make any difference.

In this article:

  • Video: How to foam roll your hamstrings

  • When to foam roller your hamstrings

  • When NOT to use a foam roller on your hamstrings

  • When foam rolling your hamstrings won’t work

Video: How to foam roll your hamstrings

When to foam roller your hamstrings

  • Before training: Research suggests that foam rolling before training can improve your flexibility. Researchers are a bit divided on whether or not it actually improves performance, but it has not been shown to have any negative effects on performance. You can read more about the benefits of foam rolling here.

  • After training: It may be useful to foam roll your hamstrings after training as it has been shown to improve flexibility and there is some evidence to suggest that it can reduce the amount of soreness that you feel after exercise.

When not to use a foam roller on your hamstrings

  • Do not use a foam roller if you suspect that you may have pulled or torn your hamstring. You’ve likely torn your hamstring if you developed a sudden pain or pull while you were exercising or if you have swelling or bruising. Using a foam roller within the first 5 days can worsen the injury. It will also not help you heal any quicker.

  • Be careful when you roll over the bony points where the hamstrings attach at your sit-bone (ischial tuberosity) or at the knee. Compressing the hamstring tendons onto those bony points can make injuries worse or cause compression injuries.

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When foam rolling your hamstrings won’t work

  • If your hamstrings have been over-worked and you are not giving them enough time to recover between bouts of exercise, they will remain tight and sore and foam rolling will have no lasting effect. In this case they need relative rest. Do activities that are low impact and low intensity.

  • If your hamstring tightness is caused by neural tension. Stiffness in your glutes and lower back or injury to the lower back can sometimes stop your sciatic nerve from sliding freely. Your brain then causes the hamstrings to tighten up in order to protect the sciatic nerve. If this is the case your hamstrings will remain tight until the cause of the neural tension has been addressed. A physiotherapist can help you with this and this is something that I can diagnose and treat via an online physio consultation using Skype.

Let me know if you have any questions. Check out my Facebook group where you can ask questions about your injuries and get injury prevention advice. As mentioned above, you can also consult me via Skype to receive a diagnosis of your injury and a bespoke treatment plan.

Best wishes

Maryke Louw

Sports Physiotherapist


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